All of these men, and millions more throughout history, have been vilified and murdered for being gay in a homophobic world. Doctors, psychologists, lawyers and writers for generations abused men like these in order to retain control over a heteronormative patriarchy.
How did they do it? They equated being a man who has sex with men with the most horrendous of crimes and most depraved capabilities of human misconduct, linking same-sex relationships with rape and pedophilia.
For years, queer men have had to remain under the radar and never let down their guard, just in case. One slip, one effeminate gesture or public kiss and the result was torture, imprisonment and death. For many, this is still the case.
Kevin Spacey came out this week, causing what will likely be one of the most controversial and important issues for the LGBTQ community this year. He did not come out to set his mind at ease or in order to bring attention to a worthy cause. No, he did it to deflect allegations of sexually harassing a child. Anthony Rapp (best known as Mark from the Broadway musical and movie adaptation of Rent) shared his story in the aftermath of the #metoo campaign, claiming that Spacey made sexual advances toward him when he was only fourteen.
Spacey responded by saying he couldn’t remember — he’d been drinking, maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t — but by the way, ‘I’m gay now.’ At best, this is a disgusting attempt to divert media attention from the allegations and use his celebrity to overshadow Rapp. At worst, this is ammunition for homophobic groups, proof that LGBTQ people are sexually-deviant monsters. Spacey lives in an ivory tower of privilege: he’s white, he’s rich and for decades he’s been publicly ‘straight passing’. With two Oscars, a Tony and a Golden Globe, Spacey is not in danger of his sexuality negatively affecting his career. He has been able to choose when and why to come out. Rapp couldn’t choose when a much older man assaulted him. Turing, Wilde and Flynn couldn’t choose when their lives were ruined.
Spacey needs to deal with the allegations and learn what it means to be gay. Rapp deserves to be listened to and to receive justice. History cannot be erased and with few queer people having the platform that Spacey does, he needs to know what he’s done and how much it’s disrespected his gay ancestors. The LGBTQ community needs to be clear: sexuality is not an explanation or excuse for harassment. Assault is not compatible with the LGBTQ movement and coming out cannot be a diversion tactic. We need to rally and show that sexuality is a trivial matter in cases of abuse. We need to show that the Harvey Weinsteins and Kevin Spaceys are not welcome in any community.
Once again, we need to prove that being gay is not evil. We need a witch hunt – we need to enable victims to speak out, to share their story and bring the abuser to justice. We need to create a community and a movement which protects the most vulnerable. This starts with weeding out the aggressors.
Kevin Spacey, welcome to the queer world but not to the community. Read. Learn. Know the names and the history. Know you’re lucky that it’s not you.